Sunday, November 25, 2012

Peace and Safety?

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3  NKJV

In his comments following the ceasefire agreement which was arranged this past week between Israel and Hamas, the Prime Minister of Israel made the following statement;

As Prime Minister, I have the responsibility – and it is the highest responsibility – to take the right steps to ensure our security. That is what I have done and it is what I will continue to do.
Benjamin Netanyahu 

As we celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, I wonder how many people considered peace as a reason to be thankful?  Compared to the people of Israel, where bombings and rocket attacks are a constant threat, I think we in this country have a definite reason to be thankful.  

I have no doubt that we are fast approaching, if not already have arrived, at the point in history referred to by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians.  Israel feels it can defend itself with the technology it possesses, and has shown that it is willing to do so.  However the day will come when the entire world will be against them and their safety will come in the form of divine intervention by the God of this universe.

The following link is to an article by the ambassador of Israel to the United States, Michael Oren.  I hope as we thank the Lord for what He has provided for us, we never forget to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as well.

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quiet Please.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Psalms 46:1-11 NKJV

The following paragraph is taken from an article on a web page that I frequent called “The Extinction Protocol”. I include the link so you can read the entire article but I want to draw your attention to the statement made here.
We are passing through a rare singular series of events in history that are coinciding by occurrence: a total solar eclipse, the peak of the Leonid meteor shower, and a large explosion occurring on the Sun; in effect, signs in the sun, moon, and stars all transpiring within days of each other. These celestial events are happening at the time a war wages around Jerusalem, a city considered holy to the world’s three major faiths: Jews, Christians, and Muslims. –The Extinction Protocol

I shared with you a few weeks ago that I travelled to northern New York state to visit my daughter and her husband following the birth of my first granddaughter. I had never visited that part of the country so I had no idea what to expect as far as what nature had to offer. As is my habit, I would get up rather early and take my coffee and walk outside to watch the world wake up. My children are fortunate to have a home on the edge of the forest so it only took a few steps for me to be swallowed up by my surroundings.

One of the things I noticed immediately that was very different from the forests in the Northwest is that if you are very quiet, the forest there is alive with the sounds of it's inhabitants. I spent close to an hour one morning just trying to identify each of the sounds I heard with the animals that made them. By the end of our visit I learned enough to actually figure out who was talking and even their mood...(squirrels are very vocal and emotional).

The argument could be made that the past couple of weeks has seen the world around us begin to talk rather loudly, considering the geological and geopolitical events we have seen. There are numerous blogs and discussion groups to be found on the internet where many are sharing their ideas and conclusions to what it all means, and especially the timing as we approach the end of 2012. The question for us as believers, however, is all of this just coincidence or is God beginning to speak in a way even the world will hear and understand?

While all of the opinions and speculations are intriguing, my first thoughts when considering the events of the past week went to my recent visit back East, and the words we find at the end of this Psalm where God tells us to “be still”. The Hebrew phrase “be still” is the word raphah, which literally means to relax, drop down, and be quiet. When I read that I thought of how I did exactly that in the forest, and the result being that I suddenly began to hear what was going on around me.

In the context of the Psalm, we are told that the day will come where God will speak in just the manner we may be seeing right now. The earth is shaking, the Middle East is in turmoil, the economies of nations are collapsing, social unrest is the order of the day, Israel is preparing to send forces into the Gaza Strip and everyone wants to know just what it all means? For us as believers the answer is found in this Psalm where God tells us in no uncertain terms that He is the one doing all of this and we should be reassured that He “is our refuge and strength”.

If you have been wondering or troubled by all that has been happening in the past few weeks let this Psalm be a comfort to you. While it is easy to look for answers in the media, either worldly or spiritual, take the time to be quiet and think on His words to us in this Psalm and let the God of this universe speak to you with reassurance that we need in order not to fear the events happening around us.  May we never forget that God is "a very present help in trouble".

As far as the conflict between Israel and it's neighbors, God addresses that particular problem in many passages but I chose this particular one to share with you today.

But thus says the LORD: "Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, And the prey of the terrible be delivered; For I will contend with him who contends with you, And I will save your children. I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh, And they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine. All flesh shall know That I, the LORD, [am] your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."
Isaiah 49:25-26 NKJV

The ultimate goal and purpose behind everything we see going on in the world today is that our God intends to show the entire world, through the Church or through the nation of Israel, that He alone is God. Be still, be quiet, and listen to Him speak.

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How Long?

My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O LORD--how long? Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies' sake!
Psalm 6:3-4 NKJV

From the number of commentaries I have read this past week in the aftermath of our election, it appears I may not be alone in praying this prayer of David from the book of Psalms. As I watched events unfold Tuesday night I could not help but remember Jesus describing the last days as resembling the “Days of Noah” in Matthew 24. One question that has always puzzled me about the days of Noah is the fact that it would appear they had absolutely no clue that their actions were an offense to the God of the universe, or if they did, they somehow believed God would allow their offenses to go unpunished.

It follows then that this past week my thoughts concerning our country and it's leaders somehow began to remind me of this same question. Does the majority of this nation actually believe their decisions do not offend God, or do they simply believe God will do nothing to show His displeasure? On the other hand, the more I read the more it appears that many believers are of the opinion that God has indeed already begun to remind us that He alone is omnipotent and is perfectly willing to judge those who offend Him. Yet, like David, it's hard not to ask God...”how long”?

Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end [intended by] the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
James 5:11 NKJV

Personally, what helps me the most is the knowledge of “the end intended by the Lord”. David may have prayed to the Lord expressing his sorrows and frustrations, but he always ended by acknowledging the fact that he knew God was faithful. I have often shared that I enjoy studying the life of David because while God described him as a “man after my own heart”, it is also obvious that David suffered from the same emotions we often do and was perfectly willing to share them with God.

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, [Having] sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 13:1-2 NKJV

We as believers should not be shy about sharing our sorrow and frustrations with God because after all, doesn't He already know what we are feeling?

Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, When He heard their cry; And for their sake He remembered His covenant, And relented according to the multitude of His mercies.
Psalm 106:44-45 NKJV

One of the most reassuring things about God is the fact that He is always faithful to answer our cries and to demonstrate His mercy towards His people. I have always enjoyed having my daughters ask me for help, and even now that they are grown and living elsewhere it still is nice to get a call and be asked to do something that is helpful in some way. Do you really believe God is so busy that He doesn't want to hear from us when we need some help? Ask and see just how faithful our God is.

Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, My precious [life] from the lions. I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.
Psalm 35:17-18 NKJV

Of course David well knew that when God provided, He alone was due the glory and the thanks. What better witness could we have but to give God the glory when He delivers us.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,to whom [be] glory forever and ever. Amen.
Galations 1:3-5 NKJV

What better to help us endure than the knowledge that God promises to deliver us from this “present evil age”.

O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? [Take it] out of Your bosom and destroy [them].
Psalm 74:10-11 NKJV

Just as David knew God had the power to judge and destroy His enemies, so we too have the knowledge that while it looks as if we are losing the battle, God will avenge Himself upon those who turn their backs on Him.

The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed."
1 Samuel 2:10 NKJV

Is it wrong to be impatient while waiting for God's return? While we know that God will do His work in His own time, David certainly had no problem expressing the difficulty he felt while waiting.

Return, O LORD! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
Psalm 90:13-14 NKJV

While we look at what is going on all around us and wonder why God is waiting, we should never forget that He loves those who sin against Him and is compassionate towards them with a patience we cannot begin to comprehend.

The LORD [is] gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD [is] good to all, And His tender mercies [are] over all His works.
Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV

I find it surprising that even in Heaven, during the coming time of judgment on this earth, the feeling of impatience and cry for vengeance will be heard from those who have been killed for their faith.

And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
Revelation 6:10 NKJV

What does God expect from us during this time of waiting? I think it revealing that in this passage from Luke we find that Jesus asks a very unusual question.

"And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
Luke 18:7-8 NKJV

At some point this past week did the thought occur to you that we should just give up? We are losing the fight so why bother anymore? David never gave up although at times it looks like he believed the entire world was against him. Yet David knew God was faithful to fulfil His promises because he never asked "if" God was going to act, only "how long" until He would act, and we should know that as well. Although it may appear that we are fighting a losing battle, the battle is not over until the Son of Man comes to take us away. Will He find faith? Why would He ask that question unless some would be tempted to give up?  If He promises to be faithful to us, is it too much to ask for us to be faithful to Him?

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

While We Wait

"Therefore wait for Me," says the LORD, "Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination [is] to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy.
Zephaniah 3:8 NKJV

So who really enjoys waiting? I know I certainly don't, and I'm pretty sure most of you aren't really fond of it either. Yet quite often in scripture, we read about  situations where people are asked to wait upon the Lord. Today we find ourselves in a situation where we are expecting the imminent return of Jesus for His Church, and also see the signs of the approaching time of tribulation all around us. Yet even as we watch for His return, we wait and grow impatient as time slowly goes by and still no call for us to go home.

I think it's probably safe to assume that each of us handles waiting in a slightly different way. Obviously everyone has a different level of patience, and most have their own way of dealing with the different emotions waiting can produce as we watch for Christ's return. Yet I believe the Bible gives us all specific instructions of what we are expected to do as we wait that many of us might not be aware of. Today I want to share with you my thoughts on just what we are expected to do while we wait and watch for the rapture of the Church.

The Olivet Discourse is the most well known teaching by our Lord on the subject of the times we now find ourselves in. In Matthew 24-25 we find His explanation of the signs of the end of this age, and the things we can expect to see and to watch for as the time of our departure draws near. We also find three of Jesus' parables that He used to illustrate and explain the things we should all be doing as we wait. While it is common to find each of these parables examined and explained individually, I think when we decide to consider the subject of what we are expected to be doing as we wait, we should take a step back and consider them as one perspective with three distinct responsibilities.

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? "Blessed [is] that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. "Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' "and begins to beat [his] fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for [him] and at an hour that he is not aware of, "and will cut him in two and appoint [him] his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:45-51 NKJV

I think most of us would agree that this parable certainly describes the situation we find ourselves in today. Our master is gone and we have been appointed His servants and been given the responsibility of managing the household until He returns. The very first responsibility we are told to assume as servants is the feeding of the household. As I have mentioned, I visited my daughter and my first granddaughter just a couple of weeks ago and while there had many an occasion to reflect on the importance of feeding. At all hours of the day and night I might add.

It seems so obvious that feeding the Body is the most important responsibility we have yet this is something many completely overlook when waiting and watching for Jesus' return. We become so fixated on looking for signs that we neglect the most basic of our responsibilities...feeding ourselves and others. To be healthy and strong, one must eat. Are you feeding on the Word of God and in turn feeding others?

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. "Now five of them were wise, and five [were] foolish. "Those who [were] foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, "but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. "But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. "And at midnight a cry was [heard]: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!'
Matthew 25:1-6 NKJV

Throughout the Bible we find that oil most often is used as a picture to symbolize the Holy Spirit. In this parable we are shown the contrast between the actions of two different groups of people presented with a situation that required waiting through a delay of some time. The difference between them is that one group has sufficient oil to carry them through the waiting period, and one group does not. I believe the important point here is one of preparation. When we become believers, our hope is in the return of Christ for His Church. Yet the Word is clear that there will be a period of waiting, so the responsibility we have is to make sure we carry enough oil to see us through.

How do we do that? It is by working at and developing our relationship with the Holy Spirit to allow Him to show us how He will provide for us on a day to day basis. Unfortunately the body has many who simply hear the Word and agree with what it says, but never take the step to allow the Holy Spirit to work through them. The wise believer understands the power of the Holy Spirit and chooses to allow Him to fill their lamps so they can burn brightly even through the wait. These two groups may look the same on the outside, but it is what is inside that will make the difference when the time of waiting and testing comes.

"For [the kingdom of heaven is] like a man traveling to a far country, [who] called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. "And likewise he who [had received] two gained two more also. "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.
Matthew 25:14-18 NKJV

In this parable, we find again the picture of the Master going away for a time and leaving his servants to do something for him. But the difference here is that we see each of the servants is given money belonging to the master, and then expected to invest wisely during his absence. Since we know that Jesus is illustrating what He expects from us during His absence, the picture here seems pretty straightforward. Each of us has been given some ability or “talent” by God, and the expectation is that we will use it for His glory when the opportunity presents itself. It also seems clear that nothing is expected from us that we don't have the ability to provide. We are not being asked to do more than we are able, rather to simply serve according to the ability He has given us. The contrast in this parable is solely between those who try, and those who don't.

Have you ever felt like you missed an opportunity to glorify God? I know I have, and all too often. The opportunities we have are provided by God, and never in such a way as to ask us to do something we are not capable of doing. Looking for those opportunities and acting on them is what we are being instructed to do in this parable, and in fact, is probably the reason behind the delay of His return. Are we really looking for opportunities to share the gospel with those around us, or are we fixated on His return and doing nothing but waiting? What I see in these three parables tells me that I need to first of all focus on the health of the body (eat and feed), secondly develop the strength needed for the wait (fill with the oil of the Holy Spirit), and lastly look for opportunities to share the gospel (use the talents He gave me).

Watching should never be our sole purpose in this life. While we are commanded to watch for His return, we are also told that we have responsibilities to fulfill as His servants while He is away. How do you wait? Look at these three parables and see if there is something you need to do for your Master while He is away.

Keep watching.